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Man who survived COVID-19 reunites with his health care staff

Jeffrey Gerson of New York City wrote a thank-you note to 116 health care workers who saved his life after he was infected with COVID-19 in March 2020.
/ Source: TODAY

Especially in the middle of a pandemic, a little gratitude goes a long way.

That's the powerful lesson a New York City man named Jeffrey Gerson learned after he recovered from COVID-19 almost a year ago thanks to his health care team at NYU Langone. He decided to write a thank-you note to all 116 of them, and on TODAY, he got to show his appreciation face to face.

Gerson's symptoms began in March 2020 as a fever, but he eventually required additional oxygen and then intubation. After the procedure, he didn't open his eyes for four weeks. But one day, he awoke and spotted a nurse in his room, he recalled to TODAY's Hoda Kotb in an interview aired Tuesday.

"The moment I opened my eyes, her face lit up, and she said, 'Do you know where you are? Do you know what you've just been through? We're so happy to see you're awake. Can I help you call your friends and family?'" Gerson said.

"My heart was so filled with appreciation that I felt like a letter was a perfect way to just be able to write everything I was feeling and get it all out there," he added.

Gerson went on to read aloud a portion of the letter at Hoda's request.

"If you're receiving this letter, it's because I have become aware that you had a part in saving my life. I showed up at the emergency room on March 18, 2020, with 103-degree fever and an uncontrollable cough," he said.

"All of you know much more than I do about what happened over the next four weeks," he continued. "And what happened in the interim is nothing short of miraculous. What I remember when I woke up that morning was seeing, 'Gerson, Jeffrey, 44 years, COVID positive,' written backwards from my vantage point on the frosted glass door to my room.

"I couldn't stop thinking about how many of you saw that written on my door and still entered my room anyway to provide me the best possible care. I want you all to know that my life is as full and complete as my recovery, and I have each of you to thank for that. Continue doing what you do. Continue being the heroes you are, and know you will forever have my gratitude."

Then, Hoda revealed dozens of people on Gerson's health care team were present on the Zoom call listening to his words of appreciation.

Former COVID-19 patient Jeffrey Gerson thanks the health care workers who saved his life over Zoom.
Former COVID-19 patient Jeffrey Gerson thanks the health care workers who saved his life over Zoom.TODAY

"I haven't had the opportunity to to tell you how grateful I am, and, you know, this happens at a time when you guys are still out there and you're still on the front lines," he said, tearing up. "And you need to know that there are people — that there are people who truly appreciate what you do."

One face in particular on Gerson's screen was that of intensive care unit manager Gargi Mehta.

"I have to say when I first got your letter, it was tears to my eyes," she said. "You see this patient you've cared for, who was really critically ill, and then you don't really expect that person to reach out months later, and so it was a really beautiful sort of closure."

Mehta was actually pregnant with her baby son when she was caring for Gerson, and she told him after receiving his letter that she had struggled with her decision to work with COVID-19 patients while pregnant.

"She said that having received the letter and seeing how well I'm doing made it all worth it," Gerson said.

He added that he hopes the positive impact of his thank-you note will continue to inspire people.

"I want to set an example of how to be grateful, how to be thankful. I want my son to see this," Gerson told Hoda. "I want him to know this is what you do for people who take care of you in a very special way."